Ikarus Flight Sim Makes Flying Fun

 - April 8, 2013, 1:45 PM
The AeroflyFS simulator, which runs on Windows and Mac computers, offers good detail and realism. Available aircraft range from a Cessna 172 to a Pitts 2-B (in photo) to a F/A-18 Hornet.

If you’re looking for an elegantly simple personal computer-based flight simulator and you just want to practice some fun flying, Ikarus USA’s aeroflyFS might fit the bill. Released last year, aeroflyFS draws from Ikarus USA’s background in developing flight sims for radio control modelers.

Learning to fly model airplanes often involves a lot of crashing and rebuilding, but by using a flight sim like aerofly5, newbie RC pilots can avoid all the distress and damage before launching a model into the sky.

The aeroflyFS simulator keeps things simple. There is no complicated setup routine; just plug in a joystick and launch the program. Any flight sim works better with a set of rudder pedals, and aeroflyFS would probably be easier to fly with pedals, although I was able to set yaw on my CH Products Flightstick Pro using two buttons on the stick.

There is a choice of eight airplanes, ranging from a Cessna 172 to a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The Pitts S-2B is a lot of fun to fly and also a great airplane to use for introductions to flying, such as taking aeroflyFS to your local middle or high school and showing kids how much fun it is to fly. There are two gliders (one is a motorglider) and aeroflyFS accurately models winds and weather so you can challenge yourself and see how long you can stay aloft in thermals and ridge lift.

To enable the high-resolution graphics, aeroflyFS models only terrain and features in a single country–Switzerland. This gives plenty of options for places to fly and mountains for glider flying. Airports are rendered accurately, as are terrain features and cities.

The AeroflyFS simulator runs on Windows and Mac computers, but be aware that the “ultra” graphics setting requires a lot of computing horsepower. The lower settings are still a pleasure to view and offer plenty of detail and realism. One word of warning: if you want to try the ultra graphics setting, make sure you do so on a powerful computer. I tried ultra on my two-year-old MacBook Pro and it slowed down the computer so much that it took quite a while to nudge the mouse pointer back to the menu bar and reselect a lower-resolution setting. There is no other way to reset the graphics, unfortunately, because restarting aeroflyFS doesn’t reset the graphics; it remains in whatever was selected last.

Of more importance is how the airplanes in aeroflyFS fly, and here the designers have done a great job. Even with a simply joystick, the airplanes respond normally and flight physics are highly accurate–good enough that aeroflyFS can be used as a pilot-teaching tool. Aerobatics in the Pitts S-2B, for example, are crisp and precise, although taking off and landing in the tricky taildragger does take some practice. The g meter works, too. The simulator also includes flight-training challenges, which not only help new pilots learn how to fly, but also help experienced pilots refine their control of the simulated airplanes.

The program doesn’t offer instrument flying capabilities, but it does include many features such as working flaps, instruments, retractable glider engine, various camera views, winch launching, autopilot, moving-map display, weather settings and thermal/wind field display. Instrument flight, more aircraft and new scenery are planned for future versions of aeroflyFS, according to Ikarus USA. The aeroflyFS simulator costs $39.99, and Ikarus USA is exhibiting this week at Sun ’n Fun (Booth No. C-047).